We all have qualities we keep in the shadows, but what if shining light onto these darker aspects could actually make life better?
If we want to feel more peaceful and complete, then we’ll want to know more about these parts we’re not owning.
The way we discover what they are, is to observe what bothers us about other people, particularly the people we love.
The qualities we demonise in others are our shadow qualities.
Allow me a moment to explain:
Might you sometimes be heard whingeing that your partner, child, sibling or dear friend is negative/lazy/ unmotivated/self-centred or any other quality you despise?
Yes? Come on, think about it. Mmhmm – maybe just a little?
Let’s just say we all have ‘issues’ with certain qualities – for me it’s things like anger, martyrdom, competitiveness and ungratefulness.
It’s understandable to dislike these nasty old traits right?
Except for this….
What’s true is that we ALL have the capacity to embody every quality that’s ever existed.
But rather than loving it ALL, what we do with the parts that give us a squeamish feeling is to deny them, project them onto other people and cover them over with niceness and approval seeking.
To examine the qualities we dislike in others is to look directly into a reflection of what we ARE but don’t want to own. The question we must ask when we feel ourselves bristling at the behaviour of another is: “How do I do that?”
And this is where compassion comes in. Compassion for yourself and compassion for everyone else because gosh aren’t we all just muddling along the very best we can?
The shadow aspects we’re most afraid of might actually become super-powers if we learn how to integrate them and shed a decent amount of light on them.
Let’s take the quality of competitive drive and have a closer look.
I denied this aspect of myself for the longest time but here’s how I know I’m competitive:
- I react with strong dislike to other people being competitive
- I get quite emotionally involved with my children’s sporting matches and want them to win
- I feel slightly envious of friends who are more successful than me
- I feel more attached to my children receiving awards than is perhaps healthy
- I like being good at stuff and love getting recognition
The funny thing is, now that I’ve began to lovingly embrace this quality and see it as funny and adorable rather than nasty and shameful, it’s softened.
And I can use this competitive drive of mine to get things done! If I didn’t care at all about striving for a better life, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to become self-employed. And that would’ve been a pity because I love my work and I’ve already helped quite a few people.
Do you see where I’m going with this? By shining light on our shadow qualities we get to benefit from their good bits and allow them to partner with our so-called positive qualities for great outcomes.
Hide them away and they become bitter and destructive. Embrace them as vital elements of our humanity and they become another playful and productive part of who we are.
Angry people make great activists and campaigners for social change and martyrs make great community volunteers, even if they do make others miserable with their bitter complaints…
What’s your shadow?
Are you willing to acknowledge it and lead it into the light?
For help with this and other brands of self-exploration contact me for a session. Click here.